What does security mean in the wake of the Crimean crisis?

The traditional security discourse reproduces male and female stereotypes and is based on the notion that the world itself is insecure and needs to be secured. This must be made aware in order for a deeper understanding of the concept of security to gain a foothold in the debate. That is the opinion of Dan Öberg, senior lecturer in military science at the Swedish National Defense College, in a reply.

In his article 'Broader security concept must be taken seriously', Anders Mellbourn deserves in a meritorious way the realization that security goes beyond the purely military. My reply is not so much a critique of Mellbourn as an attempt to take the argument for a broader concept of security another step away from an approach where security is seen as a natural part of the domain of the nation state.

To do this, let's start by asking a simple but important question. What does security mean? The traditional view of security (prevailing in Swedish foreign policy) is that it is to some extent about solving (predetermined) problems. Security is thus securing what is uncertain. Security here is primarily a matter of developing and streamlining various methods for securing against threats.

Critical and feminist security research is in many ways a critique of such an understanding of security. From that perspective, issues of security are both ethical and political in nature. This research - which I myself represent - questions a security order that means that the world itself is insecure and needs to be secured. The questioning is mainly based on the argument that if it is such a world we live in, it is because it is constructed in that way. The world we perceive as natural and operate in is thus something like created, not something like is. This distinction is important because it enables a deeper understanding of the concept of security that not only seeks to streamline solutions to security problems, but also questions them based on its constitutive aspects.

What does this mean? That security is uninteresting? No, not really. Both a traditional and a more critical view of security agree that the concept as such is important. But from the first point of view, the object that is secured and who is responsible for the hedging is relatively given. According to critical and feminist security research, it is security itself itself which is problematic. This is because research has shown that security and various techniques for securing objects are not important because they create security in some objective sense. Rather, they create a preconception of the kind of world we live in. In short - if we perceive ourselves as inhabitants of a dark and insecure world surrounded by threats - it is partly due to a preconception that sprang from the concept of security.

From that perspective, it becomes the interesting security issue what kind of world is constituted. A question that leads to follow-up questions such as which organizations and actors are created as natural "safer" objects, which ones are created as insecure and in need of security, and finally which ones are created as threats? The answers to these questions are, as it is so beautifully called in research language, 'empirical questions'. But research has shown that there are certain structural norms that underlie how we perceive what is "real" security; who is responsible for security and what is to be secured. For example, feminist research has shown that women to a large extent tend to be represented as something that needs to be secured and the nation state as the one that stands for security.

We can therefore say that "security" as a concept make cases. Perhaps the clearest example is how the man in a traditional security discourse is the one who secures the object (for example, the state of Sweden) while the woman is part of what is secured. The image of the man as an active part of the public sector is therefore in contrast to the woman as part of the sphere of the private home. Male and female stereotypes are therefore often fundamental to our pre-understanding of security and tend to be reproduced when we call for more security. It helps to create an understanding of who we are, what is expected of us and how we should relate to the outside world. When we call for more security, we thus call for certain concrete ways of thinking and acting. Raising awareness becomes even more relevant in the waves after the unrest on the Crimean peninsula and the security policy debate it has aroused.

My hope is therefore that Swedish politicians seriously ask themselves the question of what an in-depth concept of security means. What does it mean that something poses a security threat? Or more concretely, what is made possible and impossible by the claim that Russian action on the Crimean peninsula 'endangers peace and security'? What kind of world is being recreated in the wake of the solutions to today's security issues? What do we see from the worldview it creates? What do we not see? Furthermore, if the question is seriously asked (a question that is even more important in a situation that is perceived as sensitive to security policy), what possibilities are there for inventing new answers? Especially if we live in the knowledge that what traditionally constitutes the questions and answers to security and threats does not necessarily reflect 'how things are' but rather seems to reflect a (male, nation-centric) preconception of what security is.


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